As we enter Q2 of 2022, employment rates in the construction industry are trending upward. In fact, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction has reached 99% of pre-COVID numbers. Most of this growth has occurred within the last month, with sectors like contractors adding 60,000 new employees last month according to Associated Builders and Contractors, boosting the total industry employment to 7.6 million– the highest staffing level since April 2020.
While the industry is starting to see promise of regrowth, there are still employment metrics that draw concern. For example, the unemployment rate hovers near 6.7%, significantly higher than the national unemployment rate of 3.8%. Although the construction industry has a historically higher unemployment rate than the national average, there are many hardhats left to fill, especially with increased spending on the horizon.
The Importance of Investing in Construction Technology
For many, the most obvious ways to recruit new talent is to offer sign-on bonuses, increase wages, and expand benefits offers. While these actions have made waves in the construction industry, experts are aware that it will take additional changes to help generate a sufficient workforce.
One projected investment for most construction companies for the remainder of 2022 is a greater emphasis on technology development. Technology holds endless possibilities for the industry, but the simplification and expedition of current processes is one of the biggest reasons it needs to be capitalized on.
Project Management Software
While the construction industry has entered the digital age, experts believe investment in project management software will only intensify in the coming months. Highly-specialized software that fosters digital collaboration and mobility will allow for project elements such as design and materials management, scheduling, quality control, and crew tracking to be done more efficiently. This is especially important, as the proper software can allow companies to complete projects in shorter periods of time and with a smaller crew.
Not only does investment in software help improve job processes and communications, but it can also increase the quality of decision-making data. In 2020, it was estimated that contractors lost $1.8 trillion globally due to insufficient or inaccurate data. This data was hypothesized to be responsible for 14% of avoidable rework, which amounted to $88 billion in additional costs. Having the insight and ability to properly analyze accurate data will allow teams to complete jobs correctly the first time, decreasing the amount of labor needed to finish a project. In addition, reducing the amount of rework needed to complete a job will decrease the amount of material used, which is especially important as cost of materials continue to rise.
In addition to looking to software to speed up current processes, automation and robotics have the potential to exponentially increase the productivity of the construction industry. While automating processes with the help of robots may seem futuristic, it’s already a reality on some job sites. A San Francisco-based startup has created a drywall taping and finishing machine that has allowed the simplification of a once labor-intensive and tedious task– the machine allows for a seven-day job to be reduced to a two-day job.
Not only will robots allow for jobs to be done quicker and potentially decrease the amount of manual labor needed, they will also help to make sites safer for workers. Cutting down the potential of on-site accidents will allow for less days to be taken off due to injury and reduce the amount companies need to pay for workers’ compensation.
In addition to robots, drones have been a great advancement in the construction industry. Drones are becoming more and more common on construction sites for a variety of reasons, including safety. Workers can utilize drones to inspect and measure hazardous areas, removing the need for a human to enter an unsafe area.
Drones can also be utilized for surveying and imaging, helping the project to go smoothly before ground is even broken. This is paramount for a successful construction project, and employing drones for this phase is much more efficient than traditional methods.
Technology Has Benefits Beyond Better Job Sites
An added benefit of investment into technology is the appeal to younger generations. Historically, construction has been an older industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of a construction worker is 42 years old. Coupled with a younger average retirement age, the industry is facing a shrinking labor pool. Adopting technology appeals to the younger generation and presents individuals the opportunity to become highly specialized and quickly advance their careers.
As previously mentioned, the older median age of the construction industry may present a barrier to adoption when it comes to new technology. While many companies have been able to survive by utilizing old industry standards, the need to adapt and evolve is paramount to succeeding in the new environment.
The construction industry is projected to have another booming year in 2022, both in the private and public sectors. As many companies, especially those involved in public infrastructure projects and residential building, gear up for the spring months, it is important to keep a pulse on industry innovations, including the adoption of new technology. Doing so can allow a company to work more efficiently and decrease costs, something that is of the utmost importance in today’s climate.